Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] In the news today

Beth Curran bcurran at columbus.rr.com
Thu Apr 15 20:10:01 MDT 2004

>From Forbes magazine
Five Aussie Uberrockers' CI Initiative:  The Oilz Live Project
By Jody Warner
Forbes recently noticed a significant number of Conway Continuous
Improvement professionals buying tickets for a south-of-the-equator
destination and sent the author to track down the story.  All this
reporter can say is:  That whirring sound you hear is Professor Deming
rotating in his grave.  
It seems that Martin Rotsey, guitarist for legendary Australian
complaint-rockers Midnight Oil, has arranged for a crack CI team to
assist with the band's reunification tour under top-secret security.
The Oils' enduring icon, bald lead singer-cum-environmentalist lawyer
Peter Garrett, left the band in late 2002 without word of his future
plans, but seemingly has had second thoughts, according to his comments
in recent interviews.  During the hiatus, Rotsey was introduced to the
principles of CI by a family member, and when the band members met to
negotiate the possibility of reforming to play more live shows, he had a
CI proposal all ready to go.
Rotsey explains, "The Oils have always been known for their high-energy
live shows.  I wanted to make sure we were going to do this right, if we
were going to do it at all."  Drummer and songwriter Rob Hirst is
enthusiastic about the new ideas their CI program has brought to the
table.  "This will be the first time in the band's history that we'll be
able to collect solid data on whether the audience is getting the best
possible Oils live experience, and we can use each show to make
adjustments to the playlist and stage setup for the subsequent shows."
Consequently, their touring retinue will include not only managers,
roadies, and instrument techs, but two electrical and three acoustic
engineers, a half-million dollar miniaturized gas chromatograph-mass
spectrometer (GC-MS) with a Ph.D. chemist in tow to run it, several
medical doctors, and a staggering array of specialized equipment and
computers.  The GC-MS is to be used to sample the air in the theater and
separate and quantify the amount of butyric acid, a component of human
sweat.  "If the audience isn't dripping, we're not doing our job right,"
says Rotsey.  "Our fans want to leave a trail on the floor behind them
on the way out the door, and we're not about to disappoint them.  We can
measure how well each song is doing by looking at the GC-MS data, and if
there's not enough BA in the air, we can change the playlist on the fly
to hit 'em harder.
"At the same time, we need to recognize that some of our fans aren't as
young as they used to be."  Hence, the doctors.  Garrett explains,
"Thermal imaging and acousto-optic technology will let our doctors and
engineers kind of keep an eye on the audience by measuring heart rates
and skin temperatures, and they can send signals to the on-stage
computers when it's time to play Bedlam Bridge or Harrisburg for a bit
of a break."  Meanwhile, the electrical engineers will be using digital
imaging to scan the crowd and calculate the percentage of women in the
audience.  This data will be used to determine how much time the
handsome and engaging Hirst will spend at stage front, and how often
he'll be turning his back to the audience.  Acoustic measurements will
allow the band to record the volume and pitch of the audience's
The electrical engineers seem right at home in this unusual environment,
especially since guitarist-songwriter Jim Moginie is a dedicated techie
and spends a great deal of his spare time helping them tinker with their
setup.  The chemist, however, has an unenviable job dealing with bassist
and inveterate prankster "Bones" Hillman, who seemingly regards him as
lawful prey.  Hillman has reprogrammed the GC-MS computer on the sly,
persisted in blowing marijuana smoke into the air sampling device, and
relentlessly pestered the hapless scientist with endless charts such as
"PPOCF (Pete Perspiration Output Correction Factor)" or "Increased
Signal-to-Noise Ratio Induced by Cheap Aftershave:  The Aqua-Velva
Effect."  "Hey, he's going to have show the system can deal with it,"
Hillman pointed out.
The result, Rotsey hopes, will be the best Midnight Oil shows in the
band's 25 year history.  It remains to be seen whether the principles of
Continuous Improvement are truly applicable to one of rock's most
hard-hitting stage shows.  The author is looking forward to observing
the outcome and reporting back to Forbes readers in a future article.
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